Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

This happened 20 years ago today

Back when I was in high school – or maybe even middle school, I can’t remember the exact year – my uncle told me the grand plans he had for the Christmas gifts he was planning on giving his then-girlfriend. She had a habit of trying to figure out what all of her Christmas presents were before the Big Day. You might remember that I don’t like doing that. At all. Because I don’t like pretending that I’m surprised. Especially on Christmas. But that’s neither here nor there. She really liked figuring out her presents.

So my uncle decided to play a little trick on her. He had several packages of all different sizes wrapped in all different ways. And he had them out waaaay before Christmas. I don’t remember most of the presents. And I don’t remember if he had a “real” present to be revealed after unwrapping all of the other presents. But I do remember one of the diversionary gifts. It was a Hershey’s Kiss that was placed in a ring box and wrapped quite elegantly. Any outsider, including the recipient, who had been inspecting this gift for weeks, would easily think the box contained a ring.

I don’t know how this ruse played out with my not-yet aunt and uncle. They weren’t engaged at the time. They eventually did get engaged. And married. And they still are. So even if he juked her out with that gift, all was eventually right with the world.

Fast forward a few years…

Christy and I were celebrating our first Christmas as a couple. Of course, we had exchanged gifts the previous Christmas but neither one of us was willing to admit that we might have “those” kind of feelings for each other yet (and it took another five to six months for that to actually happen). So Christmas of ’96 was our first Christmas together. I had a few thoughtful gifts for her. But I also had an extra special gift. One that was inspired by my uncle.

So I placed a Hersey Kiss in a ring box and tried to wrap it as nicely as I could. I really didn’t think anyone would really think I was giving her an engagement ring. I mean, we’d only been dating since May. And I was out of town for half of that time. I thought it might have just been a funny little joke and that nobody – especially Christy – would think I was a real ring.

I was wrong.

We look back on it now and laugh. In fact, I started wrapping a Hershey Kiss in a ring box every Christmas after that. But it was no laughing matter when it happened. “That was mean,” she told me.

And it was mean.

OK. Maybe not mean mean. I had no ill-intent or malignant motive. I was just a bit…oh…tone deaf. And maybe even a bit myopic. It was not my finest moment.

Redemption?

On October 23, 1997, revisionist history would say that I redeemed myself. Or maybe revisionist history would say that I had the whole thing planned all along. A revisionist historian would argue that I knew what I was doing when I wrapped that Hershey Kiss in a ring box and made it look like I was going to pop the question that Christmas of 96.

Nope.

I lucked out. Couldn’t find the candy I wanted. Settled for Kisses instead. And thanks to a bag of bread that went along with  my bag of Kisses, we were able to have the perfect engagement on the perfect day with the perfect weather.

And that was 20 years ago today.

 

 

 

Don’t miss these Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals

black-friday-and-cyber-monday-deals-2016

Please note: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy. Thank you for your ongoing support of this site.

It seems that Black Friday shopping is still pretty popular amongst members of the Life in the Fishbowl community. I hope y’all have a great time fighting the lines and finding the great deals. After you’ve worn the soles off your shoes, check out these deals online. I don’t think you want to miss them.

Jesus Always at Family Christian Stores

When I worked at Family Christian, one of the most popular devotions was Jesus Calling. Now the author of Jesus Calling has released a new devotional called Jesus Always. It’s available for $5.00 right now. Or you can combine the book with a Jesus Always journal, pen, and gift bag for a total of $17.99, which is a pretty remarkable deal.

Jesus Always Gift Bundle

That’s not the only deal Family Christian has right now. They’re in the middle of their 10 Day Black Friday Sale, which includes 50% off ESV Bibles, 25% off Active Faith Wear, and 50% off wall art. 
Up to 60% off! 10 days of Black Friday deals. Nov 18 - 27

Sleepyheads

We have a family tradition of getting everyone a new set of pajamas that we unwrap on Christmas Eve. That can add up in a hurry if you aren’t careful. Thankfully, Sleepyheads.com has a great deal right now: 50% off PajamaMania items (November 25-28). They also have some other great deals, like free shipping for orders of $25 or more and 30% off sitewide.
Stay Cozy & Warm This Winter With Pajama's From Sleeypheads.com

Tree Classics

Why battle the Black Friday crowds when all you really want is some new Christmas decor? Tree Classics is offering up to 60% off and free shipping to make things even sweeter.
Black Friday Sale. Save Up to 60% + Free Shipping Sitewide. Hurry, Sale Ends Soon!

Fanatics

Fanatics.com is also running some great deals for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, including Holiday Door Busters with up to 50% off. You might even be able to save enough money to buy yourself that ugly Christmas sweater you know you’ve always wanted.
Big Savings for Big Fans at Fanatics.com

eCreamery

Between now and November 30th, you get two free pints of Cinnamon or Candy Cane ice cream with any 4 or 8 pint purchase.
eCreamery - Personalized ice cream for every gift occasion

I’m sure I’ll find more. So be sure to keep your eyes glued to Life in the Fishbowl!

Happy Thanksgiving! And happy shopping!

 

Try these 6 great Christmas gifts!

This post may use affiliate links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy.

Christmas Gifts 2015

The clock is ticking. Christmas will be here before you know it. And if your home is anything like ours, your calendar is filling up rather quickly. You’ve got school concerts to attend, ugly sweater parties to go to, and decked-out houses to admire. You barely have time to breathe. And you definitely don’t have time to fight the crowds at your local mall.

I feel your pain.

That’s usually me each Christmas. So I know what you’re going through. I also know the pressure (whether real or imagined) to give the perfect gift to your loved ones. I get it. It can be stressful.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Here are some great places to find some unique Christmas gift ideas this holiday season.

Canvas on Demand

What’s more personal than getting a photo printed on canvas so it can be displayed for the world to see? Your loved one can be reminded of a special event or a shared memory every day.  A photo on canvas is a great keepsake that will be treasured for years.

Gold Medal Wine Club
468x90 banner

Wine delivered to your front porch every month? This is the gift that keeps giving all year long, folks!

Ozone Socks

I love me some socks. There’s nothing like putting a new pair of socks on your feet. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. Great socks are great for your feet. I know from experience how a day can be completely ruined if you’re not wearing comfortable socks. And they’re a great way to share your personality! Ozone Socks have a great variety of socks with some pretty cool designs.

And if you want to give something truly unique, you can sign your loved one up for the Sock of the Month Club. They’ll ship the first pair out within 48 hours of your order. The Club is available in six- and twelve-month memberships and you receive one pair of socks a month, plus a bonus pair of socks to welcome you to the club.

NFL Shop
Get Free US Shipping on NFLShop.com through 12/8 with code DEC15

I think we could just buy all of Aiden’s Christmas gifts here if we wanted to. He’s that big of a football fan. From gear to clothing to collectibles to tailgating equipment to jewelry, the NFL Shop has something for even the most extreme football fan.

Tackle Direct
TackleDirect.com

I’ve been fishing on occasion. And although I haven’t been able to go as often as I’d like, I look forward to the times when I can spend the weekend with my Dad on one of his fishing trips. I still consider myself a novice fisherman. But I know quite a few fishermen and would love to give them something fishing-related for Christmas. So I asked my Dad if he and his fishing buddies would ever shop at Tacke Direct. When they said they would, I knew this was a place I should check out for myself. So I did. Let’s just say that my fishing friends and family shouldn’t be surprised if they receive something from me from Tackle Direct.

Venue Kings
VenueKings.com

We’re big fans of giving experiences as gifts, not just “stuff” that eventually wears out or is outgrown and thrown away. We’ve given visits to movie exhibits, college football tickets, and concerts for birthdays and Christmas in the past. Now that I know about Venue Kings, we just might be giving even more once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

I hope these ideas help you create a memorable Christmas with your friends and family. I hope you’re able to maximize the time you have with them as you share this wonderful time together.

Oh, and one more suggestion….

If you’re still looking for some great, high-quality Christmas decorations – or if you’re still looking for an artificial Christmas tree that’ll last for years – be sure to check out Tree Classics.
World's Finest Artificial Christmas Trees

They have trees, wreaths, lights, and all kinds of Christmas decorations for your home!

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope your holiday is full of love, laughter, and a few magical surprises along the way!

 

We’re sending a Northpole gift to Ethiopia with love

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias #NorthpoleFun #shop

The Christmas Spirit has come early to our house this year! Because our adoption agency has officially matched our family with an older boy in Ethiopia, we can start sending him emails, letters, pictures, and care packages. That means we are able to send him Christmas gifts this year.

Let me say that again.

We’re sending Christmas gifts to our son in Ethiopia!!

To Ethiopia with love #NorthpoleFun #shop

Of course, we’d prefer to celebrate the holidays with him here with us at home, but we’re going to make the most of this opportunity and share this Christmas with our son who happens to be halfway around the world. It’s tempting to want to go overboard. But we won’t. I promise. We won’t. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone involved in this story.

I’ve thought long and hard about what to send him. We still don’t know a whole lot about him. What makes him tick? What’s his favorite color? What size clothes fit him best? Does he believe in Santa Claus? I honestly doubt he’s even heard of Santa. What about snow and snowmen and snow angels and snowballs and snowball fights? Has he ever had a snowball fight?

Well, considering that the coldest month only has an average low of around 40 degrees, it’s highly unlikely that he’s ever seen any significant snow accumulation. So it’s even less likely that he’s been involved in a snowball fight.
Avalauncher #NorthpoleFun

There’s always a chance of a white Christmas where we live. So this young man is in for a pretty big shock when he finally experiences Christmas with his new family. Thanks to Hallmark Northpole toys , he’ll know exactly what to do with the snow (once he gets over the initial shock at how cold snow actually is).

Northpole Collection at Walmart #Northpole #shop

The Avalauncher is available only at Walmart. It is a handheld launcher that sends ping pong sized foam snowballs soaring into the air. It’s such a blast to play with that we bought two of them . It also comes with mini cardboard targets so you can work on your aim in preparation for your next epic indoor snowball battle.

Avalauncher targets #NorthpoleFun #shop

Based on the upcoming movie on the Hallmark Channel, the Northpole toy line is full of fun toys, decorations, and gifts for the holiday season. You’re sure to find a gift for kids and adults of all ages.

In keeping with the childlike spirit of Northpole, I can’t wait to share this little piece of holiday fun with our new son! We won’t be sending the Avalauncher itself. He’ll have to wait until he’s home with us to play with that. But we are sending snowballs and the targets so he can practice his aim and be ready for an all-out snowball battle when he finally comes home with us.

We’ve already had several skirmishes and ambushes over the past few days. I think that tend will continue throughout the holiday season – and beyond!

I ambushed @cgfootballboy25 with some Avalauncher snowballs. #NorthpoleFun

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I can’t wait for him to receive this package. I also can’t wait to have our first video chat with him. Who knows? Maybe we’ll break out the Avalaunchers and snowballs and have an epic battle that spans halfway around the world. That would be pretty memorable. And making memories a key part of the holiday season.

 

Dear Santa: Mihret’s a big fan

Santa 2013

Mihret became a big fan of Santa’s this year. She had been talking about him and singing about him since before Thanksgiving. She got to visit Santa on at least three (!!!) separate occasions before Christmas this year. On the way home from a Christmas Eve service at a nearby church, she couldn’t hold back her excitement about the Jolly Old Elf.

I wish you could actually see her face in this video, but it was shot in our car on the way home. I think you get the idea about how excited she was by listening to the sound of her voice.

In case you couldn’t understand all of that conversation, here’s a brief transcript:

Christy: Are you excited that Santa’s coming?
Mihret: I’m glad Santa’s comin’ to town!
Christy:  He’s  coming to town?
Mihret: Yeah!
Christy: Look up in the sky. Do you see his lights yet?
Mihret: Santa (is gonna) give me toys!
Christy: He’s bring you a toy? What do you think he’s going to bring you?
Mihret: Um….a balloon!
and…um…My Little Pony…
and a purple Hello Kitty.
Christy: A purple Hello Kitty? Woah…
Mihret: ….and a Doc McStuffins ball
Christy: A Doc McStuffins ball? Wow. Did you ask him for all that stuff?
I can’t hear you.
Mihret: I’ll be Santa
Me: You’ll be Santa?
Mihret: Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!
Me: Ho! Ho! Ho!

When we got home, it was time to get ready for Santa’s arrival. Here’s the note she left for Santa (along with milk and cookies, of course).

Thanks to @INDairy, I'm showing off my milk and cookies! #SantaDrinksMilk

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Apparently she wants a dog in addition to all that other stuff.

When asked on Christmas Day if Santa came to see her, however, Mihret would repeatedly answer, “No. I no see him.” It took me all day, but I finally figured out that she was being very literal. She knew Santa had come. She knew he had brought presents to the family. But he didn’t actually “see” her because she was asleep in bed. So from now on, I guess we need to ask her what Santa brought her for Christmas. Because she’ll gladly answer that question.

It has been fun celebrating the magic of the Christmas season with our family this year. I hope your Christmas season has been full of wonder and hope and joy, too!

My Ultimate Christmas Playlist: Glory in the Highest (the album)

glory in the highest

The first time I listened to Chris Tomlin’s Glory in the Highest, I was hooked. I think you will be, too.  You probably should just go ahead and buy Glory in the Highest: Christmas Songs of Worship.* The whole album’s a must have for a Christmas playlist.

It includes some pretty amazing songs, like Glory in the HighestJoy to the World (Unspeakable Joy), Born That We May Have Life, and Winter Snow with Audrey Assad. Not familiar with Winter Snow? You should be.

See? Pretty amazing.

*This post  contains an affiliate link. Whenever you click this link and purchase the album, I receive a small percentage of the sale. Did that influence my post in any way? Absolutely not. You really should buy the album. You won’t be disappointed.
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My Ultimate Christmas Playlist: For Unto Us a Child is Born

For Unto Us a Child is Born

You’re right to assume that a song from Handel’s Messiah would be on this Christmas playlist. You probably thought I was going to pick the Hallelujah Chorus.

You were wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me. I have nothing against Hallelujah. I love listening go it. But if I had to pick one song from this masterpiece that was originally composed for Easter, it has to be For Unto Us a Child is Born.

 

 

My Ultimate Christmas Playlist: Matthew’s Begats

Andrew Peterson - Matthew's Begats from Behold the Lamb of God

I like to remind people that everyone has a story. And God wants to write your story. He wants to use your story to impact someone else’s story. When I was preaching full time, I would point to genealogies like the ones listed in Matthew and Luke as examples of how God can use your story as part of His giant story.

It’s great. It’s inspiring. I still agree with it 100%.

But those names. Holy cow, those names. Some are almost impossible to pronounce – even for someone who’s taken Hebrew. OK. It was for just a semester and I didn’t do very well, but you catch my meaning.

That’s why Andrew Peterson (yes, I said Andrew Peterson. He’s back.) is such a musical genius. He can take something that can be a little dizzying when you listen to it and turn it into a pretty catchy little tune.